Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ
Feastday November 23

November 22, 1998
Brother John Raymond

Some saint's are portrayed as boring, serious and at times almost non-human persons, hardly making them inspirational models for imitation. Fortunately, Blessed Miguel Pro's biographers were down to earth.

Miguel was born January 13, 1891 at Guadalupe, Mexico. Right from the beginning he was noted for his laughter and joyous personality. He enjoyed practical jokes, which he often played at the expense of his sisters. One time Miguel attended a mission in a nearby town with some visiting Jesuits, who were friends of his family. Secretly, he took a habit of one of the Jesuits, dressed himself in it and went out on his own little preaching expedition to the neighboring area. He was accepted as a genuine priest and the people gave him eggs, cigarettes and fresh cheeses. But soon he was caught by the real Jesuits and relieved of his ill-gotten goods.

Miguel smoked cigarettes without the knowledge of his parents. Once Miguel was on the roof trying to catch his sister's escaped canary. As he leaned over the side to request help, a shower of cigarettes fell from his pocket into the startled face of his father. The excuse he managed to manufacture on his way down from the roof was not too convincing.

Although Miguel's family was devoutly Catholic, for a time he drifted away from the Sacraments and his Faith. But after two of his sisters became nuns, Miguel returned to church and began to think about his vocation. At the age of twenty, he decided to apply for admission to the Jesuits. He entered the Jesuit novitiate on August 10, 1911.

In 1910 a revolution had begun in Mexico. In 1914 Miguel was sent for safety, dressed as a peasant, on foot and by train to Laredo, Texas. From Texas he went to California, through Nicaragua and Spain. His journeyed ended in Belgium where he was ordained on August 31, 1925.

Because of health problems, Fr. Miguel was sent back home to Mexico where persecution of the faithful had become severe. Soon after he arrived in 1926 the government issued an order suppressing all public worship. This opened the way for the arrest and prosecution of any priest found by the police. Fr. Miguel, unknown as a priest to authorities, ministered secretly.

Fr. Miguel sometimes had to be clever to escape from tight situations. An order was issued for his arrest and he had to go into strict hiding. He adopted a number of disguises. He dressed as a mechanic to give a talk to a group of chauffeurs. During one narrow escape, he was barely fifty yards ahead of his pursuers. Spying a passing girl, he linked arms with her and whispered, "Help me, I'm a priest." The police search group passed by the "lovers" without a backward glance.

Father Miguel used his bicycle to get around and administer the Sacraments. In addition to these spiritual tasks, he also took many risks to help the poor of the city, collecting and distributing food and other supplies.

On November 13, 1927, a bomb was thrown from a car at the newly elected president. This car had at one time belonged to Miguel's brother. Miguel and his brothers were arrested. A few days before his arrest Fr. Miguel had told the Mother Superior of a convent, "I offered my life for the saving of Mexico some time ago, Sister, and this morning at Mass I felt that He (God) had accepted it."

Even with solid alibis, the brothers were ordered to be executed. They were to be shot, along with two other prisoners. While being led out to execution, a policeman responsible for Father's arrest asked his forgiveness. He responded, "You have not only my forgiveness but my thanks." He also softly told the members of the firing squad, "May God forgive you all."

Asked if he had a last request, thirty-six-year-old Miguel asked to be allowed to pray. He knelt and fervently prayed for two minutes. After his prayer, he stood with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, rejecting the offered blindfold. In a firm clear voice he said, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long Live Christ the King!) The firing squad mortally wounded Fr. Miguel but he still breathed. The General walked over and finished him off. Fr. Miguel's sister arrived with a stay of execution but it was too late.

The government allowed the press along with photographers to attend and publicize the execution in an attempt to dissuade Catholics from their Faith. On the contrary, Fr. Miguel's death was so heroic that the photos produced the opposite effect. Therefore, it became a crime to possess them.

Before his death, Father Miguel had told a friend, "If I am ever caught, be prepared to ask me for things when I am in Heaven." He also jokingly promised to cheer up any long-faced saints he found in Heaven by performing a gay Mexican hat dance! Now that's my kind of saint.